Umami Flavor Bombs: The Fifth Taste in Holiday Cooking

umami flavor bombs

The holidays can bring about visions of beautifully decorated dining tables overflowing with scrumptious foods on every corner. Smells of turkey roasting, pies baking and gravy slowly simmering fill our senses with anticipation. Every host wants their holiday meal to be memorable, tantalizing and ultimately full of that flavor. You might call it a flavor bomb. You know the kind of flavor that is savory, maybe salty, mouth-watering or one that possesses all of these characteristics. Chefs or home cooks often call this kind of taste: umami.

What Are the Chances You Are Uniquely Sensitive to MSG?

Chances Uniquely Sensitive to MSG

Sensitivity to monosodium glutamate (“MSG”) was virtually unheard of before it was given a name back in the 70’s. “Chinese restaurant syndrome,” so named for two reasons: 1) A 1968 letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine described the writer’s symptoms that occurred about 20 minutes after eating food from a Chinese restaurant. 2) MSG was known to be commonly used in prepared Chinese food.

If you think you’re uniquely sensitive to MSG or glutamate, two facts should be cleared up:

D.I.Y. MSG Taste Test

Chris Koetke MSG Taste Test

My interest in umami and MSG started in a rather unexpected way. Years ago, I was lecturing in my charcuterie class about various additives used in sausage and other meat preparations. I commented that we would not use MSG in class because it was not “good.” After class, a student from the Philippines asked me what was wrong with MSG. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was along the lines of it being suspect, etc. She had a confused look on her face. This got me wondering if I really understood MSG.

What is MSG?

what is MSG

In case you missed this informative article about “What is MSG,” published in the Huffington Post this month…

Author Julie R. Thomson noted: “MSG is one of the most notorious ingredients in the United States. The Japanese ingredient that’s commonly used in Chinese restaurants stateside, has been blamed for making people feel ill with symptoms ranging from headaches to asthma. (This reaction came to be known as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.)”

“Many studies have been done to determine a relationship between the consumption of MSG and the symptoms that comprise the syndrome mentioned above, but they have failed to find a link.”

How to Make Vegetable Dishes More Savory

Make Vegetable Dishes Savory

Humans are innately drawn to the rich savory flavor of umami. People are generally not, however, drawn to the bitter taste of vegetables. So, making vegetable dishes more savory and thus more appealing seems like a no-brainer. Parents have been inadvertently doing this for years every time they added cheese to their kids’ broccoli. Here are several other more sophisticated, tried and true methods to boost the umami in your vegetables and finally get compliments on your Brussel sprouts.